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Mercedes W126 couple or turbo diesel sedan?

I have been casually looking for a Mercedes Benz W126. Since I was kid growing up in the ‘80s, I have always loved the styling of the MB W126 and would now like to get one of my own as a weekend car. I am trying to decide between the coupe (500SEC) and the turbo diesel (300SD). I think the 126 SEC is one of sexiest coupes ever made but its a rare car and tough to find a good example. And from what I have heard, they are more prone to maintenance issues. I like the fuel efficiency of the 300SD plus the bulletproof reputation of the W126 diesel engine. Does anyone have any thoughts or advise to help me with my decision?

If it’s a weekend car, mpgs don’t really matter, do they? And don’t assume a 300SD will be inexpensive to maintain, any 30 year old car will have lots of problems over time, and MB problems are VERY expensive. The 300SD will be slow, compared to modern cars, and is a polluter, too.

Not much I find appealing about them, as you can tell. If I had to buy one, it would be a gas powered one.

One more thing: that ‘bulletproof reputation’ was earned by MB with the low output non-turbo diesels of years gone past. The turbo diesels aren’t much more reliable than non-turbo (more powerful) gas engines. One of the turbo diesels was especially problematic (the first 6 cylinder one, I believe).

+1 texases. I drove an '85 300SD and it was a slug.

That model has been out of production for 23 years, and any you find should be expected to dig very, very deeply into your pockets. If you have very deep pockets, that’s fine, but unless you do I think the magic will wear off quickly and you be stuck with a very expensive hobby and a very unpleasant experience.

A friend loaned me a Mercedes sedan (model unknown) in the '80s while I was on vacation in Florida for a week. Frankly, I was not impressed. It looked rich, but was IMHO underpowered and overrated. That pretty much killed my Mercedes worship and made me realize that it’s just a car after all.

If you MUST have one, I hope your pockets are deep.

Sincere best.


Couple of things . . .

You have several things wrong, in my opinion

If you want a coupe, the 560SEC is the one to get. It’s got newer technology and more power than the 500SEC. And it’s slightly better looking

Among 126 diesel sedans, you want the 300SDL with the 603 engine

That 300SD has the 617 engine, which is a certified dinosaur.

Important question . . . have you actually driven a 126

Even though they have independent suspension all around, the handling is atrocious

You are going to be sinking boatloads of money into these cars

If you get an example with the hydraulic suspension, expect it to need a lot of work.

A diesel engine will use AND lose lots of oil

A 117 V8 gas engine will quite possibly be worn, and need valve stem seals, guides. And the fuel economy is SHOCKINGLY bad. And you NEED premium. A lot of trucks actually get better fuel economy.

Of all the 126 cars, I recommend the 300SE and the 300SEL with the 103 straight 6 gas engine. The 103 is much more modern than the 117 V8, and easier to work on. And it’s got a conventional suspension

Now, lets talk about rust in the unibody…if you MUST have one, put it up on a lift and look carefully before you start forking out the money…

If you must have one, go to the Southwest

The paint will be burnt, and the leather will be split, but it most likely won’t be rusted out . . . unless it spent a lot of time somewhere else

My Bro had an MB diesel which ran like a top but did need occasional service. He had to dump because he just could not tie it up for weeks on end looking for parts.

It was a very attractive car in its day, and still looks pretty good, but one ride in any car of that era (even though it’s fairly recent, as cars go) will remind you how many things have improved. Seats are more comfortable and don’t wear out as quickly. Cars now are a lot quicker and handle better (compared to others in the same class). Ride is not as smooth as then, but cars don’t wallow as much. Even eighties cars like that one are quite mushy compared to newer cars. Ergonomics are far better. It was easy to get into a car of that era and drive only because most cars were so simple, but many controls were oddly placed and poorly thought out. Luxury cars are the worst. A friend of mine would only buy older Mercedes diesels, especially the big ones, and I could never figure out what the controls meant. Even he didn’t understand a lot of them. He just ignored those. He bought those because he was Guatemalan and for a kid growing up in Guatemala in the seventies, a big Mercedes was the height of luxury. Only the very rich could have such a car. One more reason he loved living here. He was a really terrible driver so his having a slow car was probably better for all of us.